Copper Exerts Protective ‘Halo Effect’ in Neonatal Unit


In a world first, it has been reported that surfaces in an ICU made from copper not only have reduced contamination but, due to a 'halo effect', also lower contamination on adjacent surfaces.

23rd January 2013

Results from a clinical trial of antimicrobial copper touch surfaces in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Aghia Sofia Children's Hospital in Greece showed that, in addition to contamination being 90% lower on the copper surfaces, they also exert a halo effect whereby non-copper surfaces up to 50 cm away exhibited a reduction in contamination of greater than 70% (compared to surfaces not in copper's proximity).

The trial ran from July to August 2012 in one of the hospital's two Neonatal ICUs.  Frequently-touched surfaces such as door furniture, work surfaces, drawer tops and handles were replaced with items made from antimicrobial copper (i.e. copper or copper alloys that benefit from the metal's inherent ability to rapidly and continuously eliminate bacteria and viruses).  Since touch surfaces have been shown to harbour the bacteria and viruses that cause healthcare-associated infections - and pathogens can survive for days or months on ordinary surfaces - a reduction in contamination offers a reduction in the risk of infections being picked up from these surfaces.

Results announced at the 8th Pan-Hellenic Health Conference of Health Administration, Finance and Policies in Athens, December 2012, indicated a reduction in contamination on the antimicrobial copper surfaces of 95%, in line with the findings of clinical trials in the UK, US and Chile.  The halo effect was also found in a 2010 trial at a US outpatient clinic, but this is the first time it has been observed in an intensive care unit.  A reduction of 70-75% bioburden was reported by the researchers on non-copper items at up to 50 cm distance from the antimicrobial copper surfaces.

Marina Anagnostakou, Director of the Neonatal ICU, says of the trial: 'I believe the reduction in contamination on copper surfaces will result in a decrease in infections in this unit, meaning an improvement in the health of the infants we look after.'

Aghia Sofia Children's Hospital's Director, Emanouil Papasavas, noted: 'Antimicrobial copper installations, and this scientific proof of their halo effect, are exciting innovations for healthcare practice worldwide.  Antimicrobial copper surfaces reduce contamination, and thus the risk of acquiring infections from touch surfaces.  This in turn could reduce operating costs in the units where they're installed, which would be an exciting additional benefit.'

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Copper and copper alloys are engineering materials that are durable, colourful and recyclable and are widely available in various product forms suitable for a range of manufacturing purposes. Copper and its alloys offer a suite of materials for designers of functional, sustainable and cost-effective products.

Copper and certain copper alloys have intrinsic antimicrobial properties (so-called ‘Antimicrobial Copper’) and products made from these materials have an additional, secondary benefit of contributing to hygienic design. Products made from Antimicrobial Copper are a supplement to, not a substitute for standard infection control practices. It is essential that current hygiene practices are continued, including those related to the cleaning and disinfection of environmental surfaces.

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